Iodine Deficiency: How to identify and prevent it

A study from the year 2017 showed that about a third of people lack iodine. An adult should consume about 150 micrograms of iodine a day in order to stay healthy and avoid diseases associated with inadequate thyroid hormone production. Thus, iodine is extremely important for growth, brain function, normal metabolism and wound healing. In this article, we discuss the symptoms of the lack of iodine and give some prevention guidelines.

Feeling weak and tired

One of the usual symptoms of any vitamin or mineral deficiency in the body is a constant feeling of fatigue. This condition is associated with improperly functioning metabolism – in this case, the energy that we need to get from food “does not reach” the destination. If you have enough rest and do not have a higher level of stress than usual, your constant fatigue can indicate a lack of iodine.

Fast weight gain

Usually, a person maintains his weight in a state of relative balance with the help of body’s well-established metabolic mechanism. When the metabolism works well, it turns the food we consume into energy, provided that we do not eat too much, and this energy is not stored as fat. When the body lacks iodine, the function of the thyroid gland is disrupted, and with it, so is the metabolism. Hence the rapid and uncontrolled weight gain. If you eat a normal amount of calories, are active, but the weight inexplicably increases – maybe it’s because of problems with the thyroid gland.

Hair loss and dry skin

Fragile nails, brittle and falling out hair, dry skin – these misfortunes can have many explanations, and one of them is the lack of iodine. Thyroid hormones are also responsible for hair growth and cell renewal.

Feeling cold all the time, chills and slow heartbeat

Another result of the disturbed metabolism is a lack of energy, manifested in the fact that a person is constantly feeling cold. Of course, this symptom should be paid attention to if you are in a familiar climate, but suddenly begin to feel cold. As a rule, this is also closely related to the slowing of the heart rate.

Menstrual irregularities or complications in pregnancy

If you have irregularities in your menstrual cycle or complications during pregnancy, contact a doctor as soon as possible in any case. There are many reasons for such changes in the body, and the lack of vital microelements in general and iodine, in particular, is only one of them.

Problems with learning, concentration, and memory

As a rule, the shortage of iodine negatively affects not only physical fitness, but also mental fitness. This manifests itself in problems with the concentration of attention, and also in the fact that a person becomes forgetful. In the case of children, one can see an unexplained change for the worse in school performance.

Neck enlargement

One of the really important signs that iodine deficiency has become chronic is an increase in the thyroid gland volume. Usually it shows as an enlarged part of the neck, the so-called goiter.

A goiter appears on a person when the thyroid gland swells. Photo: Shutterstock

If you observe any of the symptoms listed above, the absolute best solution is to consult a doctor. An endocrinologist can choose the right treatment for you, in case that a shortage of iodine is confirmed.

In order to prevent the appearance of a problem in the early stages, as in the case of other vitamins and trace elements, it is first of all necessary to take care of enough iodine in the food. The Association of Dietitians of Great Britain recommends the following rules:

  • If you are pregnant or lactating, you should consume ⅓ more iodine than usually, i.e. 200 μg.
  • Include fish (especially white fish) and dairy products in your diet, as they usually contain the greatest amount of iodine among frequent foods.
  • Eat super sources of iodine, such as seaweed and other algae, no more than once a week to avoid the accumulation of iodine in the body.
  • Buy iodized salt, but do not overdo it with its use, because eating too much salty food contradicts the basics of healthy eating.
  • Include a variety of additional products that contain iodine in your diet: shellfish, meat and poultry, eggs, nuts, bread, vegetables and fruits.